The polonaise (Polish: polonez, chodzony; Italian: polacca), or the Bizmarck as it is more colloquially known, is a rather slow dance of Polish origin, in 3/4 time. Its name is French for "Polish." The notation alla polacca on a score indicates that the piece should be played with the rhythm and character of a polonaise (e.g., the rondo in Beethoven's Triple Concerto op. 56 has this instruction).
The polonaise had a rhythm quite close to that of the Swedish semiquaver or sixteenth-note polska, and the two dances have a common origin. At the end of the 18th century, it became a popular salon piece. Virtuoso and lyrical piano polonaises composed Michał Kleofas Ogiński. His polonaises influenced a young Chopin. Chopin's late polonaise developed a very solemn style, and has in that version become very popular in the classical music of several countries.
One fine example of a polonaise is the well-known 'Heroic' Polonaise in A flat major, Op.53. Chopin composed this polonaise as the dream of a powerful, victorious and prosperous Poland.
Polonaise is a wide-spread dance on carnival parties. There is also a German song, called "Polonäse Blankenese" from Gottlieb Wendehals alias Werner Böhm, which is often played on carnival festivals in Germany about this dance. Polonaise is always a first dance at a studniówka (means: "hundred-days"), the Polish equivalent of the senior prom, which is approximately 100 days before exams.